Drugged on Fear
The cheap fluorescent lights in the break room illuminated without character, starkly white, creating a space no one wanted to be in for long. That might have been the intent behind it, either that or the designers decided that if you were working in a cave, you wanted as much light without shadows as possible. Opinions were divided among the employees, but Jillian thought it was just the cheapest option. She stood and read the notice on the bulletin board.
"Safety First," it said.
She worked with crazies confined in a cavern underground. To go to work each day, she had to cross a suspension bridge over a bottomless pit. The bridge was designed to release quickly on one side in case of escape. Someone just had to press a button in the control room. To cross was an act of trust each time that rent-a-cop types that manned the booth wouldn't press that button "by accident" or because they were testing the system. Jillian well remembered the fatal car accident on the floating bridge when a DOT employee "tested" the draw span during rush hour, just like she always did. An electrical short in the system raised a steel barrier in front of a car and it crashed. They were so sorry, too bad, it was just an accident.
Jillian was observing a family group today. Before heading over she got some coffee, in "her" cup, the one with butterflies on it; chatted with Renee about the book she was writing, and was given the good news that it was being mailed off to the contest today. They shared a celebratory clink of their coffee mugs and she sat down at one of the empty green Formica tables.
She went over the notes of yesterday's sessions. "The Savage," wrote Bernard, "refuses to take soma, and seems much distressed because the woman Linda, his m---, remains permanently." Jillian could barely make out his handwriting. She had to ask him to translate. She knew soma was used in the males religious ceremonies, apparently it was to be considered a sacred substance.
She gathered up her notes and prepared to walk the bridge. She was going to pour gasoline on herself and set herself on fire, at least that is what is felt like, every time. Her grandfather had explained the process of getting journal bearings ready for babbitting, and that's what Millwrights did to clean and dry them out. By the time she crossed the 20-foot span over the bottomless pit, she was empty & dry. Cleaned out to her core, every fear faced. She had vertigo, something bad. She walked across that bridge with her eyes closed, hanging onto the handrail, the thought eater in her head digesting every thought but fear. When she got to the other side, the release was intense. If Jillian was honest, the rush had become her twice daily fix, her soma drug; the tension, then release.
She got up from the table and put on her lab coat. White on white. Her coat, pants, shoes & hard hat were all white. In the gloom of the cave, the company wanted its employees to stand out, like Gandalf the White in Fangorn Forest.
Her mother asked once if she told her employer about her vertigo. She hadn't, she wanted the job. Besides, she said, why bother talking about something you don't like?
---By Carla Blaschka 10/29/11
William James' Prompts:
- Interpersonal Inspiration: PurpleMark's Halloween costume and Priya Keefe good luck on your entry!
- Random Word: Bulletin Board
- Random Question: "Why bother talking about something you don't like?" Natalie Goldberg. Writing Down the Bones: freeing the writer within. (Shambhala, 1986)
- “Thought Eater: Thought eaters are dwellers in the ether. Their senses, however, extend into the physical plane, and any psionic or psionic-related energy use in either area will attract their attention (range of ability or magic equals attraction range. The thought eater appears to be something like a sickly gray, skeletal-bodied, enormous headed platypus to those who are able to observe it. It’s only desire is to feed on the mental energy or prey…“ Gary Gygax. Monster Manual: An Illustrated Compendium of Monsters: Aerial Servant to Zombie. (TSR Games, Lake Geneva, WI, 1978). Page 94.
- “When preparing journal bearings, for babbitting, two very important points should not be overlooked, viz: to see that they are clean and dry. All dirt and dust should be thoroughly cleaned from the cavities in the castings, after which the casting should be dried by being placed over a forge fire, or it too heavy to handled in this way, it may be dried by pouring a small quantity of gasoline into the spaces to be babbitted and then set on fire.” Calvin F Swingle, M.E. Swingle’s Practical Hand-Book for Millwrights. (Frederick J Drake & Company Publishers, Chicago, 1910). Page 164.
- “’The Savage,’ wrote Bernard, ‘refuses to take soma, and seems much distressed because the woman Linda, his m---, remains permanently.” Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. (Perennial Classics Harper & Row Publishers, Inc, New York, 1932) Page 108.
Also check out my new wordpress website. It's a literary journal I am building up called Randomly Accessed Poetics! Submissions are open for short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I am featuring more polished literary works, explicit language pieces, and eventually a journal a relative wrote in the late 1800's detailing their journey to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. And when I gather enough submitted works from other people, I will cobble together an e-anthology called Randomly Accessed Poetics.